More died on Tenn. roadways this year
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
Dec 28, 2012 | 925 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As of Thursday, 1,000 people had died on Tennessee’s roadways in 2012.

That figure surpasses last year’s traffic-related deaths.

A startling shift in a trend has local and state law enforcement officials working to educate drivers and prevent life-changing crashes.

With the upcoming New Year’s holiday, plans are being made to curtail drunk driving and other dangers associated with driving.

Lt. John Harmon of the Tennessee Highway Patrol Chattanooga District said Thursday, “We want to leave everyone three things to live by: Wear your seat belt; don’t drink and drive this New Year’s holiday — get a designated driver [instead]; and don’t text and drive.”

The dynamic of deadly crashes has changed. Speed or alcohol and lack of seat belt use were and continue to be factors or elements in deadly crashes, but texting and driving as well as other driver distractions have been noticed more frequently during the many crash investigations conducted by local and state officials this year.

Locations have also shifted.

Officials are seeing data that indicate deadly crashes are increasingly being investigated in urban (city) jurisdictions. Harmon said this is a shift from the normal, relating that most fatalities in the past have occurred in rural jurisdictions (county).

“This weekend, beginning early Friday evening, every available THP trooper in the Chattanooga District will be out performing checkpoints and roadblocks in the district,” Harmon said.

“We will be working three phases during the five-day New Year’s holiday period which ends Tuesday at midnight. THP will be helping with county saturation patrols, checkpoints, both driver’s license and sobriety, and we will also be performing bar and tavern checks,” he added.

“It’s our goal and [that of] many other agencies within the district for everyone to bring in the New Year safely,” said Harmon.

Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit and Patrol Division deputies will also be teaming with Cleveland Police Department officers to monitor areas at random checkpoints, according to Capt. W.G. Campbell of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.

Campbell said 23 people have died on Bradley County roadways this year.

“Driver distractions such as cellphone use for either talking or texting, eating, looking away from the road to change radio stations and other factors have been found to be elements determined to be the cause of some of the fatal crashes this year. Some investigations continue,” Campbell said.

Sgt. Andy Smith of BCSO’s Traffic Unit said deputies are going to be vigilant regarding traffic enforcement and watching for lack of seat belt usage and other infractions.

According to data 937 fatal crashes occurred in Tennessee in 2011.

“Ultimately, the safety of a driver and his passengers falls to the driver. The driver is in control of the car, the distractions and making sure his passengers are properly restrained,” Campbell said.